Meghalaya: Cloud cut
From a sea of gentle white clouds, majestic hills rise – draped in every shade of green, waterfalls cascade down their length. Yes, this is Meghalaya – the state known as the “Abode of Clouds”. Get a little closer and you will see an entire world captured in the embrace of emerald green forests where small streams twist and turn. You will see glimpses of calm lakes, where shades of blue and green intertwine.
Turn your gaze towards the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya and there lies Shillong – the capital of Meghalaya, fondly referred to as the “Scotland of the East” by the British. If heaven is a place on earth, that place is Meghalaya.
Highlights of Meghalaya: Rain or shine
Take a deep breath before you enter the city, because Shillong is breath-taking. Beautiful colonial style houses dot this gorgeous town, shaded by trees and surrounded by green lawns. The pulse of the city is calm and serene. It is a nature lover’s paradise with tourist hotspots like the beautiful Umiam Lake, the silvery cascade of Elephant Falls, the mirror-like surface of Wardna Lake, the Mawjimbuin Caves, the sloping green of the Laitlam Valley and more.
Crafts and Culture
The people of Meghalaya can be largely divided into Khasi, Garo and Jaintia castes, and yet there are elements that bind them together. All three castes strongly believe in music and dance as an important element of life. Weaving and carving are skills that are valued and respected here. Both the Garo and Khasi communities each boast skilled weavers who can make a tillang – a cane mat that can last for 20-30 years due to the quality of the weave.
The Khasi tribe also specializes in extracting iron ore and making domestic tools from it. The village of Smit, just 11 km from Shillong, is home to the famous Nongkrem Festival, in which goat sacrifices and traditional dances are performed by men and women in front of the bamboo “palace” of the local ruler.
If ever there was a land to experience the kiss of nature, Meghalaya is it. Meghalaya is a wonderland for wildlife. The state has been gifted with species like red pandas, gorillas and elephants, gibbos and more. Discover this treasure trove of flora, fauna and wildlife by visiting parks like Knockrek National Park, Balapakram National Park (where you’ll spot rare red pandas), Siju Bird Sanctuary and more.
places of worship
Meghalaya is inhabited by a strong Christian population. However, people of all religions worship their gods side by side. The cathedral community of Meghalaya is important not only for its religious significance, but also for its amazing architecture. Marvel at the tall arches and stained glass windows of the Christian Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians or marvel at the 700-year-old shrine of Hazrat Shah Kamal Baba. If temples are what you’re looking for, then look no further than the 500-year-old Nartiang Durga Temple.
When it rains, it really rains… or so one might say about Cherrapunji, which is believed to be the wettest place on Earth (11,777 mm of rain annually). The small town has a lot to offer any traveler who is hungry for some beauty and wonder. Here you will find an attractive double-decker root bridge, made from nature’s finest materials. You can see the plains of Bangladesh from Cherrapunji. Absorb the roar and rush of India’s fourth largest set of waterfalls – the Seven Sisters – as they tumble down the cliffs. There’s so much to see, you’ll wish you’d planned a longer trip.
The cuisine of Meghalaya is influenced by the three main tribal communities living there. Rice, meat tops the list. The food is hearty, comforting and delicious. Try popular dishes like jadoh (red rice cooked with generous amounts of pork, chicken or fish), doh khaleeh (pork, onion and chilli salad) nakhmum bichi (thick fish soup) pumaloi (boiled rice powder cake) and more.
Interesting facts about Meghalaya
Meghalaya follows a matrilineal system, where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. The youngest daughter inherits all the property and takes care of the parents.
The tree root bridges found in Cherrapunji are made from living tree roots. More than 40 tree root bridges are found in Meghalaya.
Nohkalikai Fall, near Cherrapunji, is the highest plunging waterfall in India, falling from a height of 1115 feet.
The Mawphalang Sacred Forest is strictly guarded by local people, and visitors are not allowed to take anything from the forest – including fallen leaves and stones.
Mavlinong village is the cleanest village in India.
Location: High up in the hills
Meghalaya is seen high in the hills, amid the dreamy clouds covering the northeast. On a more practical note, the state shares its borders with the Bangladeshi divisions of Mymensingh and Sylhet in the south. The western border forms the neighbors of the Bangladeshi division of Meghalaya and Rangpur. And finally, Meghalaya’s northern and eastern borders are shared with one of the 7 sister states of the Northeast – Assam.
Timing: Best time to visit
Meghalaya is shrouded in clouds for most of the year, resulting in pleasant weather most of the time. The temperature rarely rises above 30 degrees Celsius, making it perfect for a summer retreat. The best time to visit Meghalaya is between October-June, where you can experience the winter wonderland and escape the summer in other parts of the country. However, as this state receives the highest rainfall in the world, it is advised not to visit during the peak monsoon season from May to September. Tourists often choose the beginning and end of monsoons to experience the beautiful drizzle and avoid the deluge of rain seen in the peak season.
How To Get Meghalaya: The Way To Perfection
By Road – Meghalaya is well connected by roads to the major cities of India. You can reach Shillong by taking NH37 from Guwahati (also known as Assam Trunk Road), then GS Road, then NH40 until you enter Meghalaya via Nongpoh. You can drive yourself or opt for private and government-run buses.
By Rail – Guwahati railway station is closest to Shillong. To reach Shillong you have to take a taxi from the station, which is 100 km away. Fortunately, Guwahati railway station is well connected to many major cities in India.
By Air – If you want to approach Meghalaya by air, you will need to fly to Umroi Airport in Barapani – which is 25 to 30 kilometers from Shillong. This airport has limited connectivity to most cities. The nearest major airport is Guwahati Airport, which is 125 km away. Outside the Guwahati airport, taxis are waiting to take you to Shillong.
History: A state of being
Meghalaya’s rich history dates back to the Neolithic era – sites from this era are found in the Khasi Hills, Garo Hills and other neighboring states. Some Neolithic farming practices are still practiced today.
When the British came to India and imposed colonial rule, they ended the separate kingdoms of the Khasi, Gara and Jaintia people. After that, the British annexed Meghalaya to Assam in 1835. Meghalaya’s history has often been as temperamental as the clouds around it.
After the partition of Bengal it became a part of Assam and East Bengal. Meghalaya completely became a part of Assam after the partition of Bengal. After India’s independence, Meghalaya received limited autonomy within the state of Assam.
Finally, the movement for a separate state began in the 1960s, and culminated in the autonomous state of Meghalaya in 1969. In 1972, Meghalaya was granted full statehood and autonomy.
State lines may be firmly and securely drawn around Meghalaya, but the culture, beauty and tranquility that the state offers can hardly be contained.